The smoky flavours of Himachali food at Pahadi Pattal in Delhi
Pahadi Pattal in Delhi offers a home delivery menu with a thaali that’s worth a taste
If there is one state that never fails to captivate me, it is Himachal Pradesh. I spent quite a few months there back in the late 70s and early 80s, staying with Himachalis and eating a lot of khatti dal and a sour pickle the region is known for. Having grown emotionally attached to their simple cuisine, I always rued the fact that there were hardly any outlets offering Himachali food in Delhi.
I rue no more. I got a message some months ago about a place known as Pahadi Pattal. Run by a young woman called Nitika Kuthiala, it offers home-cooked dishes on the weekends. I had my thhali delivered last week — and was back in Kangra, inhaling the air scented by pine trees and tea leaves.
Kuthiala worked for a corporate office, but decided to give up her job for the simple pleasure of cooking for people. She had picked up recipes from her father and mother, both known for their culinary expertise, and started organising pop-ups at home. “I wanted to showcase Himachali food,” she tells me.
Soon she had a regular stream of clients. Then, during the pandemic, some suggested that she start delivering food. She has been doing this for some months now. You have to place your orders a day in advance (Ph: 8447674414).
The thhali with a meat dish costs ₹1,299 (delivery charges are extra). You have to organise your own rice or rotis, but there is food for two. The meat dish, however, is mainly for one. Our thhali consisted of pipli mutton, aloo and mattar madra, siddu stuffed with poppy seeds, pahadi maah-rajma, jimikand, chutney and pickle.
The madra is Dham food – that is festival food cooked without onion, ginger or garlic. It consisted of chickpeas and potatoes in a thick and tart curd-based sauce. The curd has to be cooked well for the dish to get its consistency and taste. I enjoyed that, and liked the dal, too – rajma and urad dal, which had been smoked with a piece of charcoal. It was not heavy, as rajma and ma ki dal can be, and had been tempered with coriander, cumin and fenugreek seeds. I had it with the siddu — a savoury gujia-like dish with a filling of poppy seeds and walnut. I thought it was not just different, but also appetizing. There was some chutney on the side, too, which added to the zing.
The jimikand (yam) was disappointing. But that was not the problem with the dish; it was more an issue I have with the tuber itself. It seldom pleases me. This dish had been cooked with whole spices, masala powders, local herbs and desiccated coconut.
The dish I enjoyed the most was the mutton, which was light and tender, with the gravy the perfect balance of flavours. Pipli is a kind of a chilli in the north, and the dish had been cooked with these. It reminded me of a desi chicken dish that we’d eaten, sitting by a bonfire out in the open in a little village called Lagga in Chamba, back in the early 90s. I can still recall the lightness of its gravy, and the clear, starry night.
I have one grouse, though. A thhali is not a thhali if there is no dessert. And while Himachal is not exactly known for its sweets, I could have done with its mittha, a dish of sweetened rice.
That would truly have meant ‘muh mittha karna’, as we in north India refer to our offering of sweets to mark a celebration.
The writer is a seasoned food critic